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Generations point fingers at each other over bad driving habits

The experiences of Canadians during the daily commute can be very different. In some municipalities, we continue to see arguments over proper infrastructure, public transportation upgrades and grumbles over the behaviour of cyclists.

The experiences of Canadians during the daily commute can be very different. In some municipalities, we continue to see arguments over proper infrastructure, public transportation upgrades and grumbles over the behaviour of cyclists. Still, there is one element of contention that is always present: drivers.

Last year, Research Co. started tracking the perceptions of Canadians on the “state of driving” in their municipality. At the time, the collective responses outlined a pessimistic public that was dissatisfied at having to report a high frequency of regrettable behaviours.

This year’s survey does not show a massive shift in the overall assessment of drivers. The results continue to point to a “generational war” when it comes to who is regarded as terrible behind the wheel. In a welcome development, some regions are reporting better numbers than what they posted in 2018.

Across the country, 47% of Canadians say drivers in their city or town are worse than they were five years ago. Respondents aged 55 and over (53%) are more likely to believe that the situation is more dire now than those aged 35 to 54 (49%) and those aged 18 to 34 (35%).

Albertans are decidedly more critical of the situations they encounter on their roads than other Canadians, with 57% saying drivers in their city or town are worse now. Ontario is a close second (52%), followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba (50%) and British Columbia (48%).

There seems to be a ray of hope in two other areas of Canada, with fewer than two in five Atlantic Canadians (39%) and Quebecers (37%) believing local drivers are not as decent as they used to be.

When Canadians were asked if they have recently witnessed any one of six undesirable behaviours in their city or municipality, only 21% said they did not experience any problems – a proportion that jumps to 26% in Quebec. The worst numbers, again, are seen in Alberta (12%).

Some issues appear to be affecting residents of specific regions more than others.

As expected, a majority of Canadians (61%) have seen a driver not signalling before making a turn over the past month, but the proportion increases to 67% in Atlantic Canada.

Atlantic Canadians were also more likely to report a recent close call, such as slamming the brakes or having to steer violently to avoid a collision (44%) when compared with the national average (35%).

More than two in five Canadians saw a driver not stopping at an intersection in the past month (44%) – an issue that somehow is more common for those living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (48%).

There are two problems where Albertans are in a separate league. While 34% of Canadians saw a car turning right or left from an incorrect lane, the proportion of unfocused “lane trackers” is highest in Alberta (41%). In addition, the hindrance of finding a parking spot that is unavailable because a car is taking up two or more spaces is uniquely high in Alberta (61%, compared with the Canadian average of 47%).

When the findings are compared with what Research Co. reported a year ago, British Columbia is moving in the right direction. There are some significant drops in the prevalence of some of these bad behaviours on the province’s roads.

In 2018, British Columbia was the undisputed champion of drivers not signalling before turning (83%). This year, the proportion is down considerably to 66%. Other notable reductions in this province include cars taking up two or more spaces in parking lots (from 68% to 44%), drivers not stopping at an intersection (from 67% to 41%) and lane tracking (from 61% to 38%). It may be the beginning of a reassuring trend.

We continue to see a majority of Canadians (56%) believing there are specific groups in their city or town who are worse drivers than others. As was the case last year, it is a great time to be a member of generation X. We see 30% of Canadians who blame “some people” pointing the finger at young drivers, while a smaller proportion (23%) think elderly drivers are the problem. Predictably, boomers blame millennials and millennials blame boomers.

Several other groups are in single digits on this question, including distracted drivers (6%), men (3%), women (also 3%) and taxi drivers (also 3%). But there is one go-to answer that garnered an eye-catching 28% of responses: Asian drivers. Once again, Canadians gravitated primarily to age and perceived ethnic origin when trying to figure out who is bad on the road. •

Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted November 4–6, 2019, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.